This morning I walked downstairs and into our great room with a heart and body full of emotions. My husband’s big comfy chair by the window was back in place after a few weeks of being upstairs in a bedroom. We had become incapable of helping Rich navigate the stairs as he lost more use of his body so had moved first his bed, and then the hospice bed into that corner by the window.
We all lived an extremely intense few weeks and his stay here in our home was such a gift. With the help of his wife and my husband, I was given the privilege of being with him in our home for the last six weeks of his life, and my sister came for the last week. What would I ever have done with her too! I was privileged, as well, to be able to do every single thing that a mother could do to save her son.
I have lived for many years wishing I could have a “do-over” raising my children. I loved them but looking back, I didn’t know much of anything about love, about being fully aware and truly and consistently cherishing them while they were learning about life. Fortunately I’ve been blessed with many years to cherish and love them and they clearly know how much they are loved and valued.
My daughter lived with me until she left home as an adult but when the boys were pre-teen, they went to live with their father and although only a few miles away, and back and forth between our homes, I often regretted my allowing them to leave. I missed so much. The little things and also some of their life-forming experiences. I can remember at least once that each of them didn’t want to stay there after they had left and I could see in later years that it had impacted them heavily, the fact that I had allowed them to go – even though they wanted to be with their Dad. At the time, he and I felt they should be allowed to decide where they wanted to live. It had a heavy impact on all of us.
Many years ago, Rich and I talked it through and he said he had peace but that didn’t change the scars and fear of being alone and feeling abandoned that he lived with for the rest of his life. Perhaps those issues had less power over him- I don’t know. I have lived with a lot of guilt that I didn’t hold on to them tighter and refuse to let them leave. Who knows what was the best for them. I still don’t know. I do know that over the years, I’ve been blessed with a very close and loving relationship with both of them.
I, along with my other son and my daughter, were with Rich in the hospital in the state where he lived when he was given the heart-wrenching diagnosis of glioblastoma multiformae Stage IV. You can read his story here. He and his wife had wanted to move back home – here in Washington State- for several years. Now was the time. They packed what they could carry in their suitcases and 3 days later we were on the plane home for treatment at Oregon Health Sciences University and then to Compass Oncology. Rich didn’t live long enough to get into treatment. Maybe a blessing. We were furiously fighting for his life but the tumor was on a mission of it’s own. The tumor won.
He passed on Tuesday and this is Thursday. I was in an abyss of grief and despair until last night. I was adjusting to the change in my life – going from the intense life we had all been living for six weeks – every thought, prayer, breath, action included Rich and fighting for his life. When he came home from the Hospital a week ago on Thursday for hospice care, I was challenged to change my focus – from fighting to accepting and simply making him comfortable. That was a heartbreaking change in every aspect of my care for him. It brought me once again to my knees emotionally and physically – in grief and prayer.
I’m so grateful that my sister and Rich’s wife were here to share my final experiences with my son. I couldn’t have done it without either of them. My two remaining sisters are very close to him. I know how I would feel if this were one of their children and I know how much they both love Rich and that they were experiencing very close to what I was experiencing during his final days. There is huge comfort in shared experience. Thank you! I’m so grateful to you, Lynda, for being here. I know Carlieta would have been here too if at all possible.
I had incredible joy and many “grateful” opportunities seeing my three children together during these weeks – nurturing, loving, caring for one another. I know very well who they are but it touched me deeply to see them together. Their living separately as young children had no impact at this point. That was one of my concerns and pictures of a fractured family. But this proved to be family at it’s finest. I saw healing at a deep level for them and I know it was for me. I am so blessed.
I have watched Rich go through many years of incredible pain, physically and emotionally. My other son has navigated authentically and courageously through his life challenges and my daughter is a very courageous colon cancer survivor. All three of my children are my great role models. Their outlook on life, the way they navigate and function in life, their deep beliefs – somewhat differing but tolerant and strong, inspire me. They are truly my greatest teachers, along with their children and grandchildren. I’m so blessed and grateful to have these people in my life.
I’ve learned, on a whole new level, about courage, trust, faith, humor, diversity, loyalty, compassion and truth.
Last night and this morning, I have grief, of course, but that really comes in small waves. I’ve been given the gift of peace and comfort. I still don’t know what I believe or how this has come to me. After the last few days when I’ve felt lost and searching, trying to live what I think is my belief, failing and faltering, I’m given this incredible peace and feeling of being more deeply grateful than I can ever remember. And yes even joy!
I still can’t say that I’m able to live my belief but I do know this for sure. I’m writing it down to remind myself when I need to…we are nothing more than visitors on this earth. We are gifts and lessons to others. My children are first and foremost a soul that I’m privileged to know in a special way but they are not mine. I cannot hold on to them – I simply get to touch them and love them. And when it’s time for them to move on, I can do nothing but give the best send-off possible and be grateful that I was so privileged.
I’m doin the Grateful Dance. I was entrusted with that great soul in my life for a little over 54 years. How deeply blessed am I.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.